Jazz piano is a collective term for the techniques pianists use when playing jazz. The piano has been an integral part of the jazz idiom since its inception, in both solo and ensemble settings. Its role is multifaceted due largely to the instrument's combined melodic and harmonic capabilities. For this reason it is an important tool of jazz musicians and composers for teaching and learning jazz theory and set arrangement.
Along with the guitar, vibraphone, and other keyboard instruments, the piano is one of the instruments in a jazz combo that can play both single notes and chords rather than only single notes as does the saxophone or trumpet.
Mastering the various chord voicings-simple to advanced-are the first building blocks of learning jazz piano. Jazz piano technique uses all the chords found in Western art music, such as major, minor, augmented, diminished, seventh, diminished seventh, sixth, minor seventh, major seventh, sus 4, and so on. A second key skill is learning to play with a swing rhythm. The next step is improvisation: 'making it up' on the spot. This ability is perfected after long experience, including much practice, which internalizes the physical skills of playing; and it requires a great natural 'ear' for extemporaneous music-making.
Jazz piano and the instrument itself offer soloists an exhaustive number of choices. One may play the bass register in an ostinato pattern, as those found in boogie-woogie, or as a melodic counterline that emulates the walking of an upright bass. In stride piano the left hand rapidly plays alternate positions between notes in the bass register and chords in the tenor register, as is often done in the syncopated variants. The right hand may play melodic lines, but might also play harmonic content, chordally or in octaves. And, it may be played in lockstep with the left hand, using a double melody block chord called "locked-hand" voicing, or Shearing voicing-a technique popularized pianist George Shearing.